Preston North End and Alan Browne contract saga now at an uncomfortable point

Alan BrowneAlan Browne
Alan Browne | Ben Roberts Photo/Getty Images
The PNE captain could leave the club next month on a free

Here we are, still, on May 23, with the whole situation now getting uncomfortable. In fitting fashion - given the man himself has done so during his Deepdale career - the Alan Browne contract saga is splitting opinion. Can you even say this thing is rumbling on, anymore? It would appear to have well and truly died. And maybe it has done, in reality, but nothing is confirmed amid the silence and lack of clarity.

It is worth noting that a decision and resolution will come, eventually. But this really isn’t playing out, or being handled, how anyone would’ve hoped - with it now at the stage of Browne being painted as the villain, by some. And frustration is totally understandable, because this has gone on for some time. You can see why people are arguing that the Irishman should’ve made his mind up by now - that he owes it to Preston to do so.

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As for questioning his character and love for the football club, that feels unfair. There is only one side of the story being pedalled - and not by North End’s 13th all time appearance maker, who finished the final home game of the season in tears. Is ten years worth of service being undone here? Come on. Browne isn’t the loudest in the room or best footballer North End have ever had, but he’s worn the badge with pride and given his all for it.

The 29-year-old finishing his career at Deepdale felt like a formality for much of his journey; there has clearly been a change of heart in that respect. Perhaps there are deeper avenues to explore, then. Browne, too, is probably a victim of his own loyalty and self-professed feel for North End. With firmly a business hat on, though, what he is doing right now makes sense. Browne has, after all, always been the one holding the power.

Any deadline, therefore, is somewhat trivial - unless you burn the contract offer once it has passed. How else do you impose it? Preston’s boss often reinforces that deals run until the end of June, so there can be little surprise to see Browne operating in this way. Only the 29-year-old and those closest to him - who matter a lot in all of this - will know what’s going through his head. In the meantime, own conclusions will of course be drawn and narratives shaped.

Maybe he is keeping PNE there and waiting to see who comes along. Maybe he doesn’t know what to do. Maybe he’s struggling to let go. This is a decision of great significance. And with, seemingly, the Deepdale faithful’s enthusiasm dipped - can there be much shock if Browne isn’t as all in as he once was? Add in the fact he was brought on as a substitute for his 400th game - and taken off as a triple change against the Foxes - any shift towards a more selfish mindset could feasibly have set in over the last few months.

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Breaking that all-time appearance record - something very possible for Browne - would be extremely special and cement his name in the North End history books. Change must always appeal in this game, though, at some stage: new surroundings, challenges and motivation. The season finished with no fitting farewell, which will be reflected on with regret - if the player moves on, as most now expect. Of course, the player could’ve ensured he got one by rejecting.

As for the offer itself, the rhetoric of it being a club record one only emerged on the penultimate day of the season. It is unclear whether that was on the table, when Browne revealed his offer back in December. The Ireland international kept North End waiting last time, but all the signs are that this is different. If Browne surprises everyone and opts to stick around, all parties will need to move on from the stand-off - and public addressing of speculation - for the good of the club and team. But, if the Lilywhites’ offer is indeed the best and it’s still not being signed, perhaps the answer is already there.

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